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18 May 2017

Didi breaches hill monopoly

TT, Calcutta, May 17: The Trinamul juggernaut has rolled into the hills and broken new ground in the plains, the results of elections to seven civic bodies showed today.
The key takeaways from today's results:
• Mamata Banerjee's efforts to find a toehold in the hills bears fruit.
• The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha faces tough challenge. Demand for Gorkhaland expected to rise again ahead of the GTA polls in August.
• The Congress and the Left lose even in their traditional backyards.
• The BJP, piggybacking on its ally Morcha, claims to be the only anti-Trinamul force.
The Trinamul Congress became the first party from the plains in decades to find a toehold in Darjeeling and Kurseong. It also won Mirik and made significant inroads into Kalimpong.
The poll performance suggests Mamata's relentless foray into Darjeeling - embodied by numerous trips and the formation of development boards for various hill communities - has worked to some extent in the Morcha bastion. But an analyst pointed out that Mirik is not an archetypal hill locality and the chief minister needed to cover a lot more ground in the region.
"The main aim of Mamata Banerjee was to ensure a shift from the Morcha hegemony in the hills to a multi-party system and she has achieved the target this time. That's significant," said political scientist Biswanath Chakraborty.
Elsewhere, Trinamul decimated the Congress in Raiganj in North Dinajpur and Domkal in Murshidabad, besides retaining Pujali in South 24-Parganas. While Raiganj has been a Congress citadel for years, Domkal had always witnessed a Left-versus-Congress battle.
The only Opposition outfit that found some green shoots from the results today was the BJP. The party congratulated itself for having made inroads into places where it had little or no presence until recently, like the minority-dominated Pujali in South 24-Parganas and Raiganj.
Mamata messaged from Delhi: "Congratulations to my brothers and sisters in hill areas of Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik for participating in the democratic process." The chief minister extended "special thanks" to Mirik.
But Chakraborty, the political scientist, said: "Mirik is not necessarily part of the hills.... Earlier, the Left had a strong base here and CPM's Asok Bhattacharya would get good leads in the Assembly polls from Mirik. Trinamul has started off well in the hills, but they need to cover a lot of ground from here on."

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